By Ramsey Cox - 08/01/11 10:00 AM EDT
Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) isn’t like the rest of his freshman class — for a start, he was handpicked by Speaker John Boehner, to run for Congress.
In 2008, as dean of the Ohio delegation, Boehner saw an ambitious, young state senator whom he thought could keep the state’s 15th district in Republican hands. The Columbus-area seat had long been held by the GOP but was up for grabs with the decision of longtime Rep. Deborah Pryce to retire.
“[Boehner] recruited me to run and that’s where I met him,” Stivers said. “He never exaggerated anything to encourage me to run and he was always good to his word. That started to build a real relationship. I consider him a real friend in Congress and somebody that I listen to and try to take advice from.”
Stivers fell short in 2008, losing to Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy by about 2,300 votes. But he defeated her handily, 55 percent to 41 percent, last year.
“Politics is the art of the possible, and I always try to keep that in my mind and know that while I’m here to stand on my principles, which I will always do, I also always need to remember that there are left and right limits beyond which something probably can’t happen,” Stivers said.
After college, Stivers worked briefly as a staffer in the state Senate before becoming a broker for The Ohio Company and then a banking lobbyist for Bank One, where he stayed for seven years.
Another thing that distinguishes Stivers from many of his freshman colleagues is a military record. He has served in the Ohio Army National Guard for 26 years and was deployed to Iraq as a battalion commander from 2004-05 where he earned a bronze star.
Stivers, now a lieutenant colonel, was in charge of postal operations for Southern Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar and Djibouti and had 400 people working under him.
“One of the other things that I’m proud of is that everybody came home — nobody was killed under my command,” Stivers said. “The operation the year before, five people were killed delivering the mail because of roadside bombs.”
Stivers not only made military mail delivery safer, he made it cheaper and faster.
Previously, the mail had been flown into the capitals of the four countries and then driven on trucks to the various military posts. The longer routes raised the risks of roadside bombs, so Stivers directed the mail to be flown to destinations closer to delivery locations, shortening the routes and reducing the danger.
“When I got there it was taking about 14 days to get a package from Columbus, Ohio, to Baghdad, and by the time I left it was taking six days,” he said.
Stivers said his idea also saved the U.S. government $10 million.
And he’s applied some of those lessons to his new position in Washington.
“The thing I apply is that you can have a win-win just like that where you save money, provide better service and have safer operations if you are willing to step back and say ‘Why are we doing things the way we’re doing them and is there a better way to do them?’ That’s what we did there and that’s what we’re trying to do here,” Stivers said.
Stivers said he thinks President Obama has handled the Iraq War well, but isn’t sure troops will be 100 percent out by the end of the year.
“In Iraq, I think the president is on track and I think he’s doing the right things.”
Stivers also notes with approval that “the Iraqi government, [which is] the other piece of [the issue], is ready to step up.”
Stivers started attending the Army War College before he was elected to Congress and has one more year before graduation. One of the areas he has been studying is cybersecurity.
In July, Boehner announced that Stivers would serve on a congressional cybersecurity taskforce. Because of his military and financial services background, Stivers was a natural fit.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to help improve the cybersecurity of the United States,” Stivers said. “We’re looking at the president’s plan, we’re looking at the Senate’s plan so I think we’re going to come up with a really plausible framework that will be turned into legislation.”
Stivers said the taskforce was asked to do four things: make recommendations dealing with critical infrastructure, define what critical infrastructure is and how the public and private partnership will work, identify necessary updates to laws and create legal authorities to ensure critical assets are protected in cyberspace.
“We need to pay attention,” Stivers said. “There are other countries and individuals — malicious folks — out there who want to do damage or just cause chaos and we need to protect ourselves from that. It’s a really important national security issue.”
The task force is expected to conclude its work in September.